The US Air Force plans to purchase 26 Boeing Co (BA.N) E-7A airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft to replace its aging fleet of E-3s, the Air Force Department said Tuesday. Air Force, announcing a contract worth up to $1.2 billion.
The E-7A, introduced in 2009, can track and provide air target data in real-time and will be capable of controlling and directing individual aircraft, Boeing said. It is based on the narrow-body 737-700 and has an electronically scanned radar, unlike the E-3’s considerably older 707, which has a less capable mechanically scanned radar.
Boeing announced it would build two new E-7 types for the US Air Force but did not specify what those variants would be like. The Air Force stated that the first plane would enter service in FY2027 and that another 24 would be purchased by FY2032.
“The E-7A will be the Department’s primary airborne sensor to detect, identify, track, and report all air activity to Joint Forces commanders,” said Andrew Hunter, Air Force Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics.
Other operators of the E-7 include the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the Republic of Korea Air Force, the Turkish Air Force, and the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom.
Australia was the first plane customer and deployed it in Iraq and Syria alongside the US military.
Boeing Defense Australia managing director Scott Carpendale said his team was working on using its local capabilities to support the US program, as it had done with the UK.
“How to do this is to be determined and will be guided by US requirements, US security considerations, export control restrictions or parameters, and how best to utilize our talent,” he stated. to the press on the sidelines of the Australian International Airshow.
RAAF Wing Commander Darren Haynes stated that Australia had deployed the E-7 for 17.3 hours straight in the Middle East, including two aerial refuelings. The plane usually has 12-13 people on board, including the pilots.
According to Haynes, US Air Force and Navy personnel have already joined the RAAF E-7, who once served on the E-3 and said the E-7 had represented a “fundamental change” capacity.